Super Sushi

super sushiToday, we’re going to Japan! This adorable sushi bar serves up a number of felt delicacies. The menu includes a pronunciation guide, so you can brush up on your Japanese while dining on maguro (mah-goo-roh) and satsuma imo (sat-soo-mah e-moh). This set was one of our most popular projects yet, with parents reporting that their children continued playing with it weeks after story time had adjourned.

We read The Way We Do It In Japan, written by Geneva Cobb Iijima, and illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye (Albert Whitman & Company, 2002). Gregory’s mom is from Kansas, and his Dad is from Japan. They live in America, but when Dad’s company transfers him to Japan, Gregory quickly learns that the two countries are very different! In Japan, they use chopsticks, pay for things with yen, drive on the other side of the road, sit on zabuton, and sleep on futons. Gregory is very worried about how he will fit in at his new school. But happily, he learns that friendship isn’t culture-dependent. Words and phrases from the Japanese language are woven into this story, with helpful pronunciation guides at the bottom of each page to aid the read-aloud experience.

You’ll need:

  • A strip of white poster board (approximately 2″ x 22″)
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • 4 small plastic cups (mine were 3oz)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • White construction paper
  • A large rectangle of clear plastic (more on this below!)
  • A piece of light green crepe paper streamer (mine was 13″)
  • 3 paper cups
  • 1 small box (mine was 2″ x 3″ x 3″)
  • 2 rectangles of white poster board (approximately 4″ x 5.25″)
  • 2 pairs of chopsticks
  • 5 white cotton balls
  • Scraps of felt (I used yellow, orange, red, maroon, light pink, and dark pink)
  • 4 strips of green felt (approximately 1.25″ x 8.25″ each)
  • 1 sushi menu template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white paper
  • Scissors, stapler, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, your headband! Decorate a strip of white poster board, circle it around your head, and staple it. Done.

headbandNow for the sushi bar! The bar has two sides: the side in which the chef prepares the food, and the side in which the customer enjoys it. Here’s what a completed sushi bar looks like:

sushi setBegin by hot gluing 4 plastic cups to the underside of the sushi bar. I glued the mouths of the cups to the underside of the base. This created a slightly tapered look to the sushi bar’s legs.

base legsFlip the base over and use colored masking tape to decorate the top of the bar (or just use markers). Wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with white construction paper, then decorate them with colored masking tape (or marker). Hot glue the tubes to the top of the base.

It’s a little hard to see in the photo below, but the tubes are glued slightly towards the back of the base (as opposed to directly in the center). This is because you want a little more room on the “dining” side of your sushi bar.

tube postsTape a piece of clear plastic to the tube posts, creating a “window” your diners look through, watching their delicious sushi being prepared.The window should face the dining side of the base.

attached windowI used a 4″ x 14.5″ piece of archival mylar (leftover from a rare books project) for my window. You can also use transparency film from an overhead projector (OfficeMax sells it), or a piece of plastic from recycled retail packaging. Another option? Tape clear cellophane or plastic wrap inside a poster board frame.

The window shouldn’t rise too far past the top of your tube post…the tape needs to extend from the top of the window down into the tube.

taped windowAfter the window is attached, slide a piece of light green crepe paper streamer along its bottom.

finished windowAt this point, I added 2 construction paper circles to the tops of the tube posts to make them look tidy, but one little boy left his tubes open and created these awesome chopstick holders. Genius!

chopsticks optionNext, cut 3 paper cups until they stand approximately 1.75″ tall. Do the same with a small box (if you don’t have a small box handy, use an additional paper cup). Hot glue the box and cups on the “preparation area” side of the base. Hot glue 2 white poster board rectangular “platters” onto the dining side.

sushi set upDrop the 6 balls of “rice” (i.e. cotton balls) into the box. Place 4 strips of “nori” (i.e. strips of green felt) in the cup next to the rice box. The 2 oval-shaped pieces of felt “sushi meat” and 4 square felt pieces of “hosomaki filling” go in the remaining 2 cups.

preparation sideFinally, color and cut the sushi menu template, and tape it to the front of your window. Your sushi bar is officially open! To make hosomaki for your diners, wrap a piece of green felt around a cotton ball, then add a square of hosomaki filling to the top. To make sushi, slightly elongate a cotton ball, and put a piece of sushi meat on top.

hosomaki and sushiInteresting aside: the green felt we used for this story time project was recycled from the Rare Books and Special Collections Department at the University. In its previous life, it was used to cover a desk owned by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How do I recycle thee? Let me count the ways…

But back to sushi! Place the finished sushi onto the customer’s platter, and hand them a pair of chopsticks! Our project allowed kids to make 4 hosomaki and 2 pieces of sushi, but feel free to add more.

sushi setIn the process of putting this story time together, I ran across two additional books about Japan. Both are super-excellent and…non-fiction!

Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch (Lee & Low Books, 2007)
A picture book biography of Hiromi Suzuki, a woman who became one of the first female sushi chefs in New York. The story begins with Hiromi’s parents, their journey to New York, the opening of her father’s sushi restaurant, Hiromi’s growing interest in his work, and his ultimate encouragement for her to become a chef. It’s really interesting!

My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe (Kane Miller, 2009)
An absolutely adorable picture book about seven year-old Yumi and her little brother Takeshi. Through detailed drawings and Yumi’s cheerful conversational tone, we learn about her life – her house in the suburbs of Tokyo, what her family prepares in the kitchen, what her bathroom looks like, and what a school day is like. You also learn about holidays, Japanese writing, and more!

Pickin’ Peas, Or, A Problem with Rabbits

pickin peasIt’s garden season and the peas are plumb and ripe for pickin’. Unfortunately, Mr. Rabbit is on a mission to score a succulant snack! We made bunnies, baskets, and pea plants and then headed to our story time garden to catch that naughty nibbler in the act!

rabbit basket pea plantWe read Pickin’ Peas, a classic Southern folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, and illustrated by Pat Cummings (HarperCollins, 1998). A little girl plants and carefully tends a pea garden. When the peas are nice and plumb she starts to pick them, singing as she goes (“Pickin’ peas. Put ’em in my pail.”). Mr. Rabbit, hiding in the row behind her, starts to eat the peas, singing as well (“Pickin’ peas. Land on my knees!”). Eventually, the little girl catches on to rabbit’s tricks and nabs him. But with some quick thinking, a song, and a dance, the rabbit manages to escape for further culinary daring-dos.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”) – a small tissue box works too!
  • 1 strip of tagboard for the basket handle (mine was 2″ x 14.5″)
  • Brown masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Brown construction paper
  • 2 eye stickers
  • 1 pink dot sticker
  • 1 small white pom-pom (mine was 0.75″)
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • 1 rectangle of green construction paper (approximately 3″ x 3.5″)
  • 3-4 mini pom-poms (mine were 0.25″)
  • 1 small plastic cup (mine was 3oz.)
  • 1 pea garden game (more on that later!)
  • Stapler, scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

There are three parts to this project: the basket, the rabbit, and the pea plant. We’ll start with the basket! Cut the tabs and lid off the top of a small box. If you’re using a tissue box, simply cut the top off. Attach a tagboard (or poster board) handle. Use brown masking tape and/or patterned tape to decorate the basket (or, just use markers!).

basket stepsNext is the rabbit! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper, then add eye stickers and a dot sticker for the nose (or just use markers to create eyes and a nose). Tape a pair of brown construction paper ears to the inside of the tube. Hot glue on a white pom-pom tail, And don’t forget to draw a smile! The final step: write your name on the back of your rabbit so you can identify it later, during the garden game.

rabbitLastly, the pea plant. First, cut a pea pod and a leaf from a 3″ x 3.5″ rectangle of green construction paper. Here’s what mine look like:

pea pod and leafUse markers to draw some veins on the leaf. Write your name on the back of the leaf as well (so you identify it later, during the garden game).

Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Bunch the two halves together and tape the bottoms together tightly with masking tape (I used green tape, but any color will do). Curve the right pipe cleaner downward and tape the pea pod to it. Corkscrew the left pipe cleaner and tape a leaf to it. Finish by hot gluing 3-4 mini pom-poms to the pea pod (I used green pom-poms for my plant, but during story time, we let kids choose any colors they liked).

pea plant stepsYour pea plant also gets a “pot.” This is a 3oz plastic cup. I had some old office labels in the art supply cabinet, so I made “Peas” labels for the kids to color in. You can tape your pea plant inside the pot like this:

potted pea plantOr…you can wait, leave the pea plant detached from the pot, and play our garden game!

Our garden started as a low, flat box. We added 4 shrubs, tall grass, rocks, daisies, a smattering of flower stickers, pipe cleaner pea vines, a tagboard picket fence, and 3 oatmeal container rabbit holes. Here’s an image of the garden from the front:

garden from frontAnd here’s a birds-eye view so you can see how the shrubs are staggered and where the 3 rabbit holes are located:

garden from topWe knew the shrubs and rocks were going to get bumped pretty hard, so Katie attached them to jumbo craft sticks and slid them into slits she cut in the box.

shrub on sticksYou’ll notice that the shrubs have little pockets on them. This is so you can slide your pea plant into the pocket, and lo! It is now “growing” in the garden.

pea pocketTo play the game, we had every kid “plant” their pea plant in a pocket. Next, I collected all the rabbits. One by one, I hid a rabbit somewhere in the garden – in holes, behind rocks, in the tall grass, etc. – then I called out the name written on the back of the rabbit. The rabbit’s owner jumped up, ran over to the garden, and tried to find the rabbit before it “ate” any peas!

garden gameAfter everyone had caught their rabbit, the kids returned to the garden to “pick” their pea plants and tape them inside their pots. Since the kids’ names were written on the backs of the pea plant leaves, every plant was returned to its rightful owner.

Rabbits ruled this story time, but what happens when vegetables strike back? Click here to find out!

Who Will You Be?

who will you beYou’ve donned the cap and gown, walked the stage, and received your diploma. Your bright and beautiful future awaits! Only one question remains…who will you be when you grow up?

We read Owliver, written by Robert Kraus, and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey (Simon & Schuster, 1987). Young Owliver the owl like to act. He can become a hummingbird, a flamingo, even a bat! While Mother Owl is definitely up for an actor or playwright in the family, Father Owl thinks Owliver would make an excellent doctor or lawyer. When Father gives his son doctor and lawyers toys, Mother gives him acting and tap dancing lessons. Both are completely convinced that they’ve successfully nurtured Owliver’s future career. Time passes and Owliver grows up. Is he an actor, a playwright, a doctor, or a lawyer? Turns out he’s none of the above. Owliver’s a fireman!

We made oatmeal container owls, then filled an owl-sized briefcase with the tools said owl would need to follow his/her chosen profession. Then our owls walked the graduation stage for caps and diplomas!

completed owl projectYou’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • White construction paper
  • 1 owl parts template, printed on 8.5 x 11 white card stock
  • A rectangle of tagboard (mine was 4.25″ x 6″)
  • Brown construction paper
  • 2 circles of yellow construction paper (approximately 1.75″ in diameter)
  • 2 black dot stickers
  • A small triangle of orange self-adhesive foam
  • A selection of natural feathers
  • 1 manilla file folder
  • 2 small squares of tagboard (approximately 1.75″)
  • 1 strip of black poster board (approximately 1.5″ x 8″)
  • 1 square of black poster board (approximately 3.75″)
  • 1 small strip of yellow construction paper (approximately 0.25″ x 3.25″)
  • 1 diploma template, printed on 8.5 x 11 white paper
  • A scrap of ribbon to tie the diploma
  • Scissors, tape, white glue, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The owl is first! Wrap an oatmeal container with white construction paper. Add a circle of construction paper to the top of the container’s lid if you like.

Cut the owl parts from the template, then use the individual pieces to trace a pair of feet onto tagboard (or poster board), the “tummy feathers” onto brown construction paper, and a pair of wings on white construction paper. Hot glue the feet to the bottom of the container, and glue or tape the tummy feathers to the front. Add a pair of yellow construction paper eyes with black dot sticker pupils (or just draw the pupils in with markers). Use a triangle of orange self-adhesive foam (or orange construction paper) for a beak.

Use white glue (or tape) to attach feathers to the wings, then hot glue the wings to the oatmeal container. Add some feather eyebrows, and you’re done!

owlNext is the briefcase! I cut a 3″ x 4.5″ piece from the folded bottom of a manilla file folder. Unfold the piece and lay it flat (the unfolded piece will measure 4.5″ x 6″). Cut a pair of “briefcase handles” from 2 small squares of tagboard, and hot glue (or tape) the handles to the sides of the paper like so:

briefcaseUse markers to draw the tools your owl will need in his/her future profession. Here’s mine:

writerSome paper, books, a pencil, a pen, and a laptop. Yup, my owl wants to be a writer! Here’s a sampling of some other briefcases…

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Finally, the graduation cap and diploma! To make the cap, circle and staple a strip of black construction paper (my circle was 2.25″ in diameter). Hot glue (or tape) a square of black poster board to the top of the circle.

For the tassel, hot glue (or tape) one end of a small strip of yellow construction paper to the center of the square.Fold the strip over the edge of the hat, then fringe the free end. You can cover the top of the tassel with a small square of black post board (as seen below), but that step is purely optional.

cap and diplomaCut a diploma from the template, roll it, and tie it with a ribbon. The diplomas on my template say “Congratulations! You Rock!” but you can customize your diploma however you like.

We prepped the caps and diplomas in advance. And, with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing on my iPhone, the owls marched across the graduation stage (i.e., a piece of white poster board with gold embossed foil seal “footlights”) and received a cap and diploma.

Way to go, class of 2015!